Madeleine K. Albright: Remarks on Cuba

July 3rd, 2010   Theme: Cuba Libre!

Remarks of Madeleine K. Albright
High Level Democracy Meeting of the Community of Democracies
Krakow, Poland
July 3, 2010

“Through solidarity, established democracies can come closer to fulfilling their potential. Struggling democracies can find the help they need to deliver on freedom’s promise. And future democracies can draw inspiration in their quest for social progress and political change. This was the Geremek formula for building and preserving democracy. And it is the basis for the 2010Bronislaw Geremek award.

Father José Conrado Rodriguez is minister to a parish in the impoverished city of Santiago de Cuba. For decades, Father José has served his community as a healer and educator. He felt hope, as did I, when in 1998 Pope John Paul II visited Cuba, prompting memories of that same Pope’s visit here to Poland two decades earlier. In his arrival speech, His Holiness prayed: “May Cuba with all its magnificent potential, open itself to the world and may the world open itself to Cuba.”

Unfortunately, that process of opening has gone forward much more slowly than we had hoped. In 2005, Father José wrote a letter to President Fidel Castro urging the introduction of democratic mechanisms. Last year, he found it necessary to write again, this time to Raoul Castro, proposing that he respond to change with new approaches and new attitudes.

Father José’s eloquence and courage provide a number of lessons that are relevant to the community of democracies. First, they remind us that not every measure taken to support democracy yields the desired results. U.S. law should make democratic change in Cuba easier.

Second, Father Jose reminds us that democracy – at its best – is more than just another system of government. Real democracy is built on a moral foundation. It is based on respect for the rights and dignity of every human being, no matter how humble or how disadvantaged that person might be.

Democracy is grounded in a belief that the legitimate power of governance comes not from the barrel of a gun, or from the means to arrest and to brutalize prisoners, or from the capacity to punish those who dare to voice their discontent. Power, to be legitimate, must come from the people.

More than one hundred years ago, Jose Marti said that “it is my dream for every Cuban to engage in politics in an entirely free manner.” I think I speak for everyone associated with the Community of Democracies in expressing my faith that this dream will one day be realized, and that democracy and justice will indeed come to Cuba. When it does, it will be because of the quiet leadership of people such as Father José Conrado, who are showing every day that the real test of a democrat is to respect human dignity and to believe in one another.

That is the standard in which Bronislaw Geremek placed his faith. That is the core premise of the Community of Democracies. And it is why Father José Conrado is a most deserving recipient of this year’s Bronislaw Geremek award.”

Read the full speech

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